The Cost of Doing what you Love: Artist Oxala shares her experience of giving everything up to live her dream

Written by Dianne Oliveira aka Oxala

Photo by Tomo Nogi Photography

November 1st is my “Quit-a-versary.”  

One year ago, on November 1, 2018, I quit a brand new job after just three weeks on the team.

At my weekly check-in with my new boss, I blurted out, “I don’t think this is going to work,” to which they responded, “What’s not gonna work?”

“This. Me. Here. In this role.” I thought I might nervous-cry or worse, nervous-vomit all over the company MacBook I’d been issued just a week ago.

I continued, “I’m grateful for this opportunity, and it’s out of respect for everything you’re building here that I won’t waste any more of your time…or mine. My heart is not here. I am an artist, and I need to go do creative work.” 

I left that day and never came back.

It was the first time I quit a job and walked out without securing employment elsewhere first.  I had managed to save enough to get me by if I needed it for 3-4 months. I was more excited than afraid.

I want to sing. I need to perform. This was all that I knew for sure. The rest was unknown and uncertain.

What has unfolded since has been the most fulfilling, fortunate and challenging year of my life. Everyday I continue to learn what it really costs to do what you love.

On November 1, 2019, my one year “Quit-a-versary,” I am independently releasing my debut single, So Close, under the moniker, OXALA.

OXALA is the stage name I have claimed for myself which is borrowed from the Portuguese expression, “Oxalá” meaning “We hope.”

As an independent artist you are the owner, manager and day to day task-worker of your business and brand…PLUS you’re the product itself! It can feel like doing the job of several employees, with nowhere close to the revenues to match multiple salaries. Still, I can honestly say that I am obsessed and in love with the process of finally bringing my music to market. Nothing is perfect, but the lessons I’m learning finally feel like they are for me; like I’m finally in alignment with what I’m meant to be doing with my life.

I wanted to do work that felt meaningful and that reinforced my worth as a talented and valuable person. I was convinced that the perfect job would meet all those needs, plus grant me a great pay cheque and a health benefits package, and then I’d finally be #livingmybestlife with a sleek LinkedIn profile and perfect Instagramable moments to boot.

It took finally getting all those things and STILL feeling unfulfilled to arrive at the understanding that succeeding at something you never truly wanted will always feel like failure. (Note: I’m pretty sure this is a Tony Robbins quote. But go ahead and retweet / repost cause it’s a good one)

I think it’s important to define failure before you define success. That way, when the going gets tough, you know where you’re willing to compromise and you’ll recognize when it’s no longer worth the risk. Rather than committing to “Find what you love and let it kill you” as Bukowski suggested, I prefer to “Find what you love and love it, with healthy boundaries, risking as much or as little as you want.” Adjust your expectations accordingly.

When I pictured my worst case scenario, it didn’t seem so bad. I found myself thinking, “So what if I wake up at age 40 and I still have to work as a cocktail waitress to support myself? My integrity and pride would be intact knowing that I went all in on my dreams, rather than having spent a lifetime molding myself into what I hoped would look impressive on paper to everyone else.”

Creativity. Vulnerability. Hope. Adventure. Questioning and seeking. The cultivation of emotional intelligence and deep intuition and the courage to respond to emotions with mindfulness. These are my values.

In addition to asking “What do I value?” I would encourage anyone feeling called to do what they love or pursue an unconventional path to get comfortable asking themselves as many uncomfortable questions as possible.

Questions like:

What do I need to feel safe?

What brings me joy?

What pursuit will make the bitter taste of inevitable failure palatable or at least tolerable?

“Who am I and what do I want?”

Answering these questions requires a confrontational analysis of the self, our values and our patterns. Some people will go their entire lives never considering any of this. Because, well, it’s like, really hard!

Doing what you love requires you to embrace who you really are; all of your talents, and all your flaws. It’s high definition exposure and it sucks, most of the time, but for me it also feels like a gigantic relief. Knowing your truth and being present to it is the only path to peace.

Doing what you love will come at the cost of looking foolish and feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. Every. Single. Day! Oh and there’s no guarantee of any of it ever “paying off” as in you may never arrive at any remarkable financial success in exchange for your energy. Also, you probably have to get a roommate or 2 or 3 roommates or live with your parents if that’s an option and keep a part-time job in another industry just to eat, clothe and house yourself…

It’s enough to make you wonder how or why anyone would ever choose this. So why did I?

To know myself.

To know who I am and what I’m capable of feeling, creating and affecting in the world. That is the work of an artist. That is working from a place of love not of fear. It’s the only work I’m interested in doing, and it took being unemployed to find it.

Doing what you love can manifest in different ways for different people. Some of us will chase our dreams; the dream jobs, the dream vacations. Others pursue personal relationships, determined to marry their best friend and become great parents. Some commit to causes that go beyond themselves; they may even start a business or launch a non-profit. Nowadays a lot of us are probably trying to achieve greatness in more than one of these areas at the same time! So long as we remember to lead with love, ask the tough questions, adjust accordingly and dare to be ourselves…we’ll be ok. We will always be ok.

It was sunny last year on November 1st as I walked across Bloor Street back to Dundas West Station, or maybe it was the light that had come on within me, assuring that the path ahead would be bright.

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Follow @ HeyOXALA on Instagram

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly

Nadia Elkharadly is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Addicted Magazine. Her myriad of addictions include music, fashion, travel, technology, boxing and trying to make the world a better place. Nadia is also a feminist, an animal lover, and a neverending dreamer. Keep up with her on social media through @thenadiae.
Nadia Elkharadly